Tropical Storm Nate is being blamed for more than 20 deaths across Central America even as it tracks toward a likely U.S. landfall this weekend as a hurricane.

“The system is forecast to strengthen over the Gulf of Mexico, and could affect portions of the northern Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend, with direct impacts from wind, storm surge, and heavy rainfall,” the National Hurricane Center said Thursday. “However, it is too early to specify the timing, location or magnitude of these impacts.”

Nate is expected to reach the northern Gulf Coast at hurricane strength this weekend before making landfall early Sunday somewhere between southeast Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.

Residents in part of Louisiana’s coastal St. Bernard Parish, east of New Orleans, have been ordered to evacuate as the state prepares for Nate. The evacuation for areas outside of the parish levee system was set to begin Thursday evening.

A state of emergency was declared for 29 Florida counties and the city of New Orleans.

Even as the threat of Nate draws near, several parts of the country are still struggling to recover from previous storms.

​Hurricane Maria

A group of Puerto Ricans who recently arrived in Florida met Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence as he prepared to go to Puerto Rico to survey the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

Everlinda Burgos, who flew into Orlando from her home in Naranjito, told Pence, “Don’t go to San Juan. Go inside the country like where I live.’’ Burgos told Pence that President Donald Trump went to “another part’’ earlier this week. But she says the vice president should “go to the center’’ Friday “because that’s where the disaster is.’’

Some two weeks after the catastrophic Category 5 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory is still reeling from its devastating effects. 

Governor Ricardo Rossello Nevares said just 8.6 percent of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority clients have had their power restored; 365 of 1,619 telecommunication towers have been repaired, but landlines are functioning at 100 percent.

The government’s hope is to have the power back on for a quarter of the island within a month’s time, and for the entire territory of 3.4 million people by March.

While 63.3 percent of the San Juan metropolitan region has safe drinking water, just 14 percent in the northern part of the island and 30 percent in the west region has such access.

As part of his daily news briefing on recovery efforts, the governor reported that 76 percent of island gas stations are open and 70 percent of the supermarkets are reported open.

​Hurricane Irma

The Florida Keys, devastated by Hurricane Irma last month, have reopened just in time for prime tourist season. The keys, which stretch about 200 kilometers off Florida’s southern tip, were closed after Irma made landfall Sept. 10 as a Category 4 hurricane.

Tourism-related jobs account for about 50 percent of the workforce in the area.

Meanwhile, the last shelter used for Hurricane Irma evacuees closed in Miami-Dade County Wednesday.

As Irma approached Florida, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued evacuation orders covering 600,000 residents. The county opened 43 shelters capable of housing about 100,000 people. Some 32,000 people ended up taking shelter in county facilities.

​Hurricane Harvey

Texas lawmakers, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, urged Congress to approve $18.7 billion more in funding for relief and recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. The request came a day after the Trump administration sent Congress a proposal for $29 billion in disaster aid to Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

While some Federal Emergency Management Agency money has reached Texas, the substantial funds needed for extensive home repairs or rebuilds, could take up to 32 months to work their way through several layers of government agencies.

The Houston Chronicle reports the bulk of the requested funds, $10 billion, would go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for repairs and upgrades to dams, waterways and ports. Another $7 billion would be allocated for Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery funds, doubling the amount that was allocated in September.

Another $800 million would go to state educational agencies for repairs to schools and colleges, and rest of the funding would be applied toward small businesses, economic aid and transportation infrastructure.

More than 185,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the Category 4 hurricane.

Author

Weconom

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